Another despicable abuse of a dead celebrity

I was originally going to switch it up and blog about something other than cancer. In fact, there is a particularly juicy bit of anti-vaccine nonsense that I wanted to write about because it shows the utter mendacity of a certain anti-vaccine website that, believe it or not, is not Age of Autism. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but there actually is an anti-vaccine group that is giving Generation Rescue a run for its money when it comes to sheer crazy. It’ll keep, though, until next week. In the meantime, I have even worse crazy to deal with. In the meantime, I have even more despicable nonsense to deal with. In the meantime, I need to say once again: I hate it when I’m right.

That’s right. Mike Adams is back, and he’s nastier than ever. I guess I’ll just have to make this week the “all cancer quackery” week here on the blog and defer other topics for next week. it’s an appropriate topic, anyway, to finish my sixth year on, as my blogiversary is fast approaching. (More on that tomorrow.)

So, what am I right about? Well, when I wrote my post about the death of Elizabeth Edwards due to breast cancer two days ago, I wrote:

I expect that it will not be long at all before promoters of quackery like Mike Adams come out of the woodwork, as they frequently do when a celebrity dies of cancer, sometimes to truly despicable extremes. They will come out and claim that, because Elizabeth Edwards chose standard-of-care treatment but ended up dying anyway, science-based medicine is useless.

Actually, it took Adams two days, which was actually longer than I expected Adams to take, to post a vile attack entitled Elizabeth Edwards joins long list of victims killed by chemotherapy. I had expected that he’d have had this spittle-flecked screed so typical of his M.O. up and posted before the body even reached room temperature. That’s just the kind of guy Adams is. But it wasn’t enough for Adams to pile on Elizabeth Edwards. Oh, no. He had to do a two-fer yesterday. Apparently, reports from the press that the reason Aretha Franklin had surgery last week was because she has pancreatic cancer. True, these news reports, to my knowledge, have not yet been confirmed, but they are out there, and ol’ Mikey just couldn’t wait to double down on the vileness by writing a companion piece entitled Aretha Franklin dying from advanced pancreatic cancer, say reports. It’s as though Adams lit one of his farts on fire, and the fire was burning stupid.

And Adams had just finished eating a very large Mexican meal beforehand.

Let’s take a look at how he starts his post on Elizabeth Edwards:

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, died this week following a six-year chemical assault on her body from cancer doctors. Ravaged by the effects of toxic poisons known as “chemotherapy,” Elizabeth even cursed the chemotherapy drugs before she died, saying, “Damn these drugs.”

Actually, John Edwards leaves the full context of the quote out, which is described here:

Two months ago, Elizabeth Edwards was laboring to climb the stairs of the old colonial house she had recently bought in Chapel Hill, N.C., for herself and her youngest two children. Separated from husband John since January, she looked forward to making a fresh start come springtime in this new home.

But even as she daydreamed on this sunny October day, Edwards, 61, gasped for breath with tears in her eyes and cursed her chemo.

“Damn these drugs,” she cried. “Damn cancer.”

Hmmm. One wonders why Adams left out that part of the quote. Clearly, Elizabeth Edwards knew it was the cancer that was killing her, even as she cursed the drugs, which, as we all know, have side effects. Leave it to Adams to start out his article by selectively quoting Edwards. He then leaps into more inanity:

Cancer doctors destroyed Elizabeth’s health for six years and then abandoned her, saying that “further treatment would be unproductive.” This is how conventional cancer doctors operate: They poison your body, take your money, and when it turns out they’ve nearly killed you, they just stop treating you and tell you to go home and die.

Really? As compared to the quacks that Adams champions, quacks who subject cancer patients to snake oil for as long as they can pay, and then abandon them after they don’t get better. I contrasted the case of Elizabeth Edwards to that of Kim Tinkham the other day for a reason, namely because Tinkham’s “practitioner,” Robert O. Young, a man who claims that all cancer is a reaction to too much acid and that the cure is an “alkaline diet” plus sodium bicarbonate, practically spraining an ankle as he backed away from Tinkham after the news spread throughout the blogosphere that she was dying from metastatic breast cancer. Indeed, I even e-mailed Robert O. Young. Believe it or not, he actually responded, and we had a bit of a testy exchange. First, I asked Young why he had removed the videos of his interview with Kim Tinkham promoting his “pH Miracle Plan” quackery. His response:

They should not have been removed

When pressed, he replied:

The videos will be back. Kim and the family are very grateful for the pH Miracle program and what it has done for them.

Later in the exchange, Young even said:

They were to be rotated not taken down.

Seriously, he wrote that. I have the e-mail. I then pointed out that it was indeed a rather odd coincidence that these videos were “rotated out” only after the news of Kim Tinkham’s recurrence had hit the blogs. His response was telling:

Kim is not dying because of the pH Miracle Plan.

Amazing how fast Young was to run away from his most famous client, a woman who had actually been on Oprah Winfrey’s show, once she was no longer of any use to him to promote his quackery. In contrast, the real oncologists who treated Elizabeth Edwards didn’t disavow her when they could no longer help her. Rather, they told her the truth, namely that her cancer had metastasized to the liver while she was on treatment, meaning that the chemotherapy wasn’t working any more. They switched her treatment mode to palliation, as is appropriate. Did they wait too long before switching modes? Who knows? I don’t have enough clinical information even to make a judgment. Moreover, such a decision is a collaborative one between oncologist and patient. Some patients will want to fight to the bitter end; others will accept palliative care and hospice much earlier. None of that stops Adams from being his usual despicable self:

Despite being “treated” by chemotherapy, Elizabeth’s breast cancer spread to her bones in 2007. Even with more “treatments” offered by conventional cancer doctors, cancer continued to spread to her spine, skull and legs. Like millions of other cancer sufferers, Elizabeth was never told the truth about cancer by her doctors. What truth? That there is a cure for cancer.

In fact, there are many cures for cancer. Conventional medicine doesn’t believe in any of them. Rather than curing patients, traditional oncologists poison them with deadly chemicals and call it “treatment.”

One wonders whether Adams means Robert O. Young, who has been featured on multiple occasions as an exemplary “alternative” healer. Perhaps the most hilarious example was this article asking Is modern medicine founded on error?, an article packed full of germ theory denialism. In the article, Young is described as a “scientist,” whne he is anything but.

But Adams is only just getting started. Next, he turns his attention on the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. He begins by pointing out that the story that Franklin has pancreatic cancer comes from the National Enquirer, even pointing out that it isn’t a particularly reliable source. None of that stops Adams from using that unreliable source as a jumping off point for one of his patented rants against scientific medicine:

The reason her cancer is “advanced,” of course, is because her doctors never told her the truth about pancreatic cancer, which is that through significant changes in diet and lifestyle, even pancreatic cancer can be reversed. I’ve seen numerous pancreatic cancer patients who reversed their condition by turning to natural cancer therapies such as Gerson Therapy, which is based on daily juicing of fresh vegetables and fruit, cleansing detoxification of the body’s organs, and improving the nutritional density of foods. (www.Gerson.org)

Gerson therapy? You mean a therapy that spawned the Gonzalez therapy, a therapy involving various juices, up to 150 supplements a day, all topped off (or “bottomed out”) with coffee enemas? You mean a kindred therapy to the very therapy that resulted in patients living only one-third as long as patients who received that awful, toxic chemotherapy? You mean a therapy that was the “intellectual precursor” to a therapy that is worse than useless?

Yes, that’s exactly what Adams is talking about. He then goes on to conclude breathlessly:

Aretha Franklin is 68 years old and underwent cancer surgery last week. When being treated by conventional cancer treatments (poisons), the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 35 percent. That tells any intelligent person that conventional oncology doesn’t work, yet cancer doctors keep doing the same thing, over and over again, killing patients by the hundreds of thousands each year with these toxic chemicals. This is what keeps them in business.

These statistics should tell you the truth about the utter failure of the conventional cancer industry: 43,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the United States. 37,000 people die each year from it (but all 43,000 pay for “treatment”).

This, doctors claim, represents the greatest health care in the world, all driven by “evidence-based medicine.” But the real evidence says that chemotherapy doesn’t work and conventional cancer patients are dying at an alarming rate. Conventional cancer treatments are, effectively, quackery.

First off, Adams isn’t even quite correct about the five year survival of far less than 35%. That 35% number is only for patients whose cancer is diagnosed at a stage at which the cancer can be completely resected surgically with negative margins. Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed “after the cat’s out of the bag,” so to speak, with metastatic disease or disease that has invaded local anatomic structures to the point where it can’t be resected with negative margins. How’s that for an honesty that Adams doesn’t have, telling him he’s wrong and that the survival for pancreatic cancer is actually worse than his estimate?

Then, there’s the issue of how any people die of pancreatic cancer. Well, yes, it sucks. Pancreatic cancer happens to be a cancer against which we just don’t have any really good treatment. Our best treatment, surgery, only works when the tumor is still localized to the pancreas. But what about other cancers? For example, approximately 180,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the U.S., and around 40,000 die. Such differences are a function of different biology and more effective treatments for breast cancer, but in general roughly 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t die of it. No doubt Adams would never credit science-based medicine for that. Certainly, Adams engages in black and white thinking where if a science-based medical therapy doesn’t save 100% of the cancer patients it is designed to treat, it’s all crap. And when celebrities die of cancer, to him they represent nothing more than another ghoulish marketing opportunity for his quackery.

Unfortunately, Adams’ gambit after the death of Elizabeth Edwards was to be expected. After all, it’s what Adams did after the deaths from cancer of celebrities, celebrities such as Tony Snow, Patrick Swayze, and Farrah Fawcett, among others. In Adams’ world, science-based medicine never cures anyone, and cancer is perfectly curable with diet and “detoxification.” It’s a fantasy world that can be, as Douglas Adams would say, “mostly harmless” in the worried well or people with conditions that tend to be self-limited. However, combine Adams’ fantasy world, like that of Robert O. Young, with real diseases that can really threaten lives, and people die.

People like Kim Tinkham.